The conversation surrounding Lululemon’s possible fat shaming has a lot of women talking if the retweets, favorites, comments, and shares of the many articles covering the topic are any indication. These days it seems like the focus of the conversation surrounding the plus size community has turned from health and wellness (thank goodness) to ‘Why can’t I find cute clothes?’. This line of thinking troubles me because I feel like we’re collectively taking the easy way out.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for sexy bras that are as beautiful as anything that you’d find at Journelle (swoon), but there are great options out there. I believe in being proactive, putting your money where your mouth is, and working to find a solution instead of being part of the problem. Speaking from experience, most of these brands that are oblivious to the financial opportunity presented by the plus size community are run by  old, white men who have no interest in changing their point of view because they can’t see beyond the end of their nose.

We keep trying to gain acceptance and understanding from executives, brands, and retailers who have no interest in bringing our community into the fold. If Target, for example, wanted to include plus sizes in the collections produced by their designer collaborations, they would. Because we as a community have the power, whether fashion realizes it or not, to initiate change, I recommend we take a few proactive steps:

1: Put your money where your mouth is.

  • I know what you’re thinking – ‘This is easier said than done!’, but it is the fastest and simplest route to a solution. A plus size brand that I once worked for believed that plus size women were not willing to spend money on themselves and would therefore only purchase cheap, shapeless garments because that is what we thought that we deserved. We’re talking awkward Wal-Mart baggy tees with Donald Duck on them. You know the ones that I’m talking about. I know that money is tight for all of us, but if we make an effort to budget and make a statement by supporting brands who support us, we can impact change.
  • Conversely, don’t support brands who don’t support you. If they don’t want to see you in there store, throw your cash around somewhere that does.

2: Speak up!

  • If you like what a brand is providing for you, tell them! Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and make sure that your opinion is recognized. These days, brands do all sorts of digital research before making key business decisions, including evaluating the social channels of would-be competitors. If you don’t feel comfortable declaring your appreciation publicly, drop them an email through their website. These types of love notes get circulated internally and are a great motivation for the employees. 

3: Dig a little deeper

  • Think that Old Navy, Torrid, Nordstrom and Lane Bryant are the only places that you can shop? These big retailers have made great strides in recent years, but they don’t always provide more trend-driven styles that a lot of women look for. Do some Google research or join some plus size communities. Follow the hashtag on Twitter. Search for designers of custom pieces on  Etsy who will accommodate larger sizes. I always like to say that especially in our niche community, the success of one is a success for all, so support and celebrate! 

Do you feel like it is difficult to find the basics and trends that you’re looking for with current plus specific retailers or do you wish that stores that cater to straight sizes would widen their offering?

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  • styrch

    I love your “Put your money where your mouth is” comment. Having recently rejoined the Plus Sized ladies group, I reflected on my skinnier time(for about 3 years… I maintained) and realized I continued to champion larger sizes, even as I advocated for health and fitness. It’s not hard to say “wish you had sizes higher than 14” no matter what size you are.

    It’s particularly difficult to find “Made in the USA” clothing that’s in larger sizes, by the way. I get angry about that. “Buy American!” “I would but I can’t!” “So what! Do it anyway!” “Make me THAT dress in a size 16 or a XXL!” Ugh. Eventually they’ll have to listen, right?

    Anyway, this is another reason why I’m learning to sew. 🙂

  • Hey sweetness!! Long time no talk! I think that women will always think of themselves as larger than they are and even if they slide down the size scale, they will still see themselves as the larger version. I don’t know that I always agree with people about the media being the reason that we are so body dysmorphic, but I do know that it’s real.

    A lot of the problems with the fast fashion sites (even in plus) is that they are mass produced on a level that we can’t comprehend, with unique labels sewn in for a multitude of different brands. The same shirt could be at three or four vendors, and all have the same shapeless fit.

    I used to sew a lot in college (since I was a fashion major) and I loved it, but I was never great with patterns. I hope that you have better luck than I did!

  • styrch

    Digging WAY BACK into my psych degree for undergrad here… there were studies done that showed that larger girls thought of themselves as smaller, smaller girls thought themselves larger. Normal tended to be the most realistic. Not sure if that holds true anymore, but it’s so different from the reality of being more than one “category” in one year. A year ago, I was on the high end of normal for my height – and looking back on it now I was TINY but didn’t see myself as such.

    Anyway, regardless, sewing presents similar problems as you pointed out with retail. Pattern makers don’t really know how to account for individuals. I gain all my weight in my stomach – I have no real waist. So I really don’t fit into retailers or pattern makers patterns that try to define it. Yet shapeless and I look fat AND preggo. LOL I never have ever fit into Layne Bryant, for example… waist always nipped and armholes too small but they thought I was supposed to have ginormous boobs too, which I didn’t really. *sigh*. consequently I’m choosing shapeless because it is the lesser of two evils, if that makes sense.

    It’s good to talk to you here. I read you more than you might think. I just haven’t been as talkative I guess. But I know you know that regardless of what size I am (past present or future) this your “On the Plus Side” will ALWAYS be one of my favorite fashion columns. As long as you keep writing these posts I will keep reading. 🙂

  • Well said Sarah! We have to support the brands that support us. The internet gives us many options that didn’t exist several years ago. Also, sewing is a great idea. I knew I couldn’t find the wedding dress I wanted in a store, nor did I want to deal with the horror that is wedding dress shopping for curvy girls. I was fortunate enough that my mom could make my dress.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Absolutely!! I love this.
    The whole reason I do what I do is to bring visibility to the great options that DO exist for us already–and hopefully at scale, to effect a change in the market at large. Retailers need to sit up and take notice that 65% of American women wear a size 14+. Until they do, though, I’m out there hustling to find amazing indie designers, boutiques and hard to find brands and help shoppers discover them.

  • That is so fascinating! I had no iead. Psych always freaked me out and I had this TA who wore crazy high heels, so I’d watch her pace back and forth during class instead of listening. That might come in handy these days!

    Oof, that does sound tough! I took two semesters of pattern classes and they were torture. I’m sure there are some resources online that will help you to grade the patterns up and down as you need. If not, I’m sure there’s a textbook or three that you can refer to. Patterns are really more of a guideline. It’s up to you to customize them for yourself.

    It’s so good to talk to you here, too! And thank you – I’ve always loved your comments. On The Plus Side has changed a lot lately. I’m working hard to get back into the swing of things, but it’s really, really hard to shoot by myself. Thanks so much for always being so great! xoxo

  • Hi Deb – thanks so much!! My mom actually used to make my baby clothes, and my grandmother made clothes for my mom, so I come from a long line of DIY’ers. I’m not super talented, but I did go to fashion school, so I know a trick or two. Sometimes we can’t rage against a system, we just create our own, you know?

  • Hi Cynthia – I’m so glad you do! It’s so, so important that we don’t take the easy way out. We have to think about our decisions and purchasing power. Be conscious with our choices. Keep on fighting the good fight!

  • styrch

    There’s a book called Skirt a Day which talks about creating a sloper then three basic patterns based on silhouette off of the sloper. Everything is totally customizable. But as I’m still learning that book will be my first entry into pattern drafting. I’m not good enough yet for customization in the way I’d like to be, but I’ll get there eventually.

    At least your blogging. I’ve ground to a standstill, debating my direction.

    Anyway, you can always hit me up on FB if you feel like a chat. 🙂

  • I’m so glad that you’ve found a resource! That seems like solid advice and I totally believe that you can do it. You can always practice on muslin so you can break a few eggs first. I totally believe in you!!

    I have to keep going – honestly, I don’t think that at this point life has any intention of letting me off this ride any time soon.

    You too! And my inbox is always open 😉

  • Kristen

    Great post! I am on a very tight budget but I’d rather spend a little more on something well made and cute then something cheaply made that isn’t flattering on my body.

  • theplussideofme

    What’s REALLY frustrating is finding the few cute plus size clothes there are then realizing the sizes stop at an 18/20 or 22/24. I always e-mail the company letting them know I want to wear their clothing, but some brands won’t budge. Very happy to see ASOS extend sizes–they’re listening!

  • I’m petite but getting toward plus size and I don’t fit anywhere. I think “minus sized” (my new term because I hate the term “plus sized” should definitely have a wider range of sizes. I don’t understand why they don’t.

  • Denise Elliott

    What bothers me the most is not the lines that don’t carry anything beyond size 14, it’s those that do and make their plus sized offerings in awful, cheap materials with no tailoring details so that they will flatter no one. I spend a fortune having everything I buy tailored (I’m short, too, so that’s part of my problem – plus size petites are rare to find in stores) and that’s after I pay more for a similar style than someone in a size 0-14 would pay. Frustrating, to say the very least!

  • Z_Lauren_Z

    Amen to the put your money where your mouth is!

    Anytime I see a designer trying to do higher end plus size I see a large majority of comments complaining that the items in question are too expensive.

    I saw a review where a woman was complaining about a $50 Made in the US top being too expensive. I don’t know what she expected a plus size garment (which takes a lot more fabric) and is made in the US to cost . . .

    When I first moved into having to wear plus sizes I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in myself and sort of punished myself by not buying myself nicer quality things. I bought a lot of stuff from Old Navy and Target but eventually I thought screw this! And instead of buying a bunch of junk from cheaper retailers I bought a few nicer higher end pieces from Eileen Fisher, Anna Scholz, Johnny Was and Lafayette 148. I just feel so much better now . . .

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